Coronavirus: Lethbridge small businesses grapple with extended closures

COVID-19: Lethbridge small businesses respond to extended timeline
Some small business owners in Lethbridge are concerned over the extended timeline for COVID-19 announced by the provincial government on Tuesday. As Emily Olsen reports, the community is rallying together to keep those businesses afloat.

As a new business owner, Dave Low’s dream of opening a wine bar in downtown Lethbridge has been postponed.

Low’s business, Steel and Vines Wine Bistro, was originally slated to open on May 7, but due to the pandemic, that date has been pushed back.

“It was a little bit upsetting because we had sort of planned for that, we had our timeline set up,” Low said.

“But we looked on the bright side of it. It’s given us some time to re-focus, take a little bit more time on the renovations.”

Low is just one of many local business owners facing delays, after the provincial government announced the COVID-19 crisis and accompanying closures could last until the end of May.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: A closer look at Alberta’s relaunch strategy

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Low said support from groups like the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown BRZ has been crucial. 

“You know [hearing] like: ‘You’re going to get through this, don’t give up, we’ll help out.’ And also seeing social media… Everyone is buying food from local restaurants.”

Cayleigh Hamilton is the owner and operator of House Of Hammm Consignment Boutique. She said social media has also played a huge part in helping local businesses.

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“That’s kind of the spectacular thing about technology right now,” Hamilton said. “It keeps you synced in with everyone, even while we’re social distancing.

“Even while us non-essentials are closed. We can kind of scream it from the rooftop that we’re still here, don’t forget about us.”

Hamiliton added that the last few months have dealt a devastating blow to her business.

“It feels like I’ve taken 10 steps forward and 20 steps back,” she said. “Any cushion, any savings that we’ve had over the years, they’ve been eaten up.”

READ MORE: ‘Technology is everything’: Lethbridge businesses can video chat to stay connected during COVID-19

But Hamilton said the response from the community has been nothing short of inspiring.

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“It’s amazing to see actually because Lethbridge has so many independently owned and operated small businesses. This has just been blowing their names out of the water,” she said. 

“People are talking about them, people are promoting them. All the great little restaurants, everyone is supporting them right now and getting takeout and delivery.”

READ MORE: New task force helping southern Alberta businesses through COVID-19

The BRZ said they are doubling down on support and resources to help Lethbridge’s small business owners during this challenging time. 

“I talk to business owners downtown every day and there are a lot of people who are very down,” board chair of the BRZ, Hunter Heggie said. 

“That’s one of the things at the BRZ that we can give them, is some hope, that look there’s going to be a tomorrow, the sun’s going to come out.”

Heggie added that the extra downtime offers business owners a chance to re-examine, renovate and prepare to come back stronger than ever.

“I know it’s scary for businesses, but we’re full of hope,” Heggie said.

“We didn’t come this far to fail from a virus. We’re going to move forward through this, and rock and roll.”

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